Country Profile for Australia
For several countries, education remains core to development in all perspectives and contributes to the enhancement of every country’s competitiveness. Research shows that a critical role of education is evident in the promotion of global social and economic development and the building of a strong global community. This idea of the significance of education has been recognized worldwide and has repeatedly been confirmed in international conferences, forums, policy documents, and various high-level policy dialogues (UNESCO, 2014). Many nations have shown a commitment towards promoting education by coming up with education policies that have undoubtedly helped to transform the global education landscape as well as outcomes of learning. The achievement of a successful educational transformation in many countries depends on factors such as policy reforms and programs, which must focus on addressing the key areas of change. In this regard, this report focuses on the key perspectives of Australia’s education system and its commitment to achieving global educational objectives. Additionally, it gives a brief introduction to the country including its geographic location, GDP per capita, population, political governance system, and other interesting facts about the country. It further examines the structure of Australia’s education system including system management and hierarchy, national curriculum, dominant pedagogies, assessment, as well as evaluation systems in place. Moreover, this report gives details of the development process of Australia’s education system and forced that the same including issues surrounding the evolution and reform of the system. Finally, this report identifies and briefly discusses current issues that can be identified with Australia’s education system.
Australia, also known as the Commonwealth of Australia, is located in the Oceania region and is undoubtedly among the top 10 largest countries worldwide. The Commonwealth of Australia is composed entirely of the Australian continent that further includes the island of Tasmania. In totality, the country has a population of approximately 21 million with most of its populace comprising of immigrants from European and Asian countries (Nuffic, 2011). It is divided into two territories and six states with the former comprised of the Northern and the Australian Capital territories, while the latter comprised of Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia (Nuffic, 2011). Australia has three levels of government, namely; federal, state, and local governments (Nuffic, 2011).
According to the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, the Commonwealth of Australia is one of the wealthiest countries among the Asia-Pacific nations, having enjoyed more than two decades of economic growth and expansion. Its GDP per capita is $47, 389 and $1.1 trillion in total, representing a 2.5 percent economic growth as compared to previous years (Eslake, 2002). The 2017 Index of Economic Freedom further states that trade contributes significantly to Australia’s GDP with the value of exports and imports representing 41 percent of the total GDP. As of December 2014, the Commonwealth of Australia had a population of approximately 23.6 million people with most of these concentrated in the coastal region from Adelaide to Cairns. Areas around Western Australia and Perth have small concentrations whereas central Australia has a sparse population (Digital Transformation Agency, 2016). Canberra, the country’s capital, has a population of approximately 380,000 people and it is located in the Australian Capital Territory halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. Regarding the political governance system, the country is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy headed by Queen Elizabeth II. The Governor-General and the Governors are tasked with representing Queen Elizabeth at the federal level and state level respectively. Unlike other systems whereby the head at the federal level has absolute powers, the Governor-General, currently Peter Cosgrove, neither has a de facto government role nor decision-making responsibilities. Nevertheless, he or she is allowed to serve or act as a legal figure for the actions of the Federal Executive Council and the Prime Minister. Australia’s federal government is divided into three branches including the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary (Digital Transformation Agency, 2016).
Australia’s Education System
In Australia, one of the key areas of concern is education, with the state and federal authorities having a joint responsibility for the same. Dowling (2007) states that the federal government is responsible for providing funds to facilitate educational operations in schools whereas state governments are responsible for budgeting for individual schools. According to Australian law, education is mandatory for children between the ages of 6 and 16 and the official language of instruction is English (Nuffic, 2011). The education system begins with the primary education that runs for seven or eight years starting at preparatory or kindergarten through years 6 or 7 (Education system overview, n.d.). This is then followed by lower secondary education or junior secondary education that runs for 3 or 4 years, from years 7-10 or 8-10. Students from lower secondary education proceed to senior secondary or secondary school certificate diploma that runs for two years. Learners then proceed to tertiary education comprising of undergraduate, postgraduate, master, and Ph.D. levels (see appendix A). The undergraduate level entails ordinary bachelor, advanced diploma, and diploma whereas the postgraduate level entails ordinary education and graduate diploma (Nuffic, 2011).
When it comes to the Australian curriculum, a national standard tasked with setting out what Australian students are taught is in existence. Having a national curriculum means that every learner or student in Australia has access to the same content and individual achievements are often judged against consistent national standards (Noonan, 2016). Australia’s curriculum focuses on seven key pillars that are of significance to life after school and the work environment, especially in the 21st Century (Norton &Cakitaki, 2016). The national curriculum of Australia stresses on numeracy capability of learners alongside their literacy capabilities.Other perspectives such as intercultural understanding and critical and creative thinking are also included in the curriculum (Marks, McMillan, &Ainley, 2004).
One of the dominant pedagogies in the Australian education system is digital literacy whereby an emphasis is on the use of computational thinking and information systems in the definition, design, and implementation of digital solutions (Santiago et al., 2011). Another pedagogy involves design and technologies whereby students use design thinking and technologies in the generation and production of designed solutions, especially for opportunities and needs consideration to be authentic and necessary. Moreover, plans are in place to improve learners’ digital literacy through interventions such as coming up with initiatives aimed at inspiring curiosity and developing science and math knowledge in early childhood. Other initiatives aimed at achieving the objective of improving digital literacy in schools include online computing challenges for year 5 and 7 students across the country, information and communication technology summer schools for year 9 and 10, and providing support for school leaders to drive digital literacy and partnerships between ICT leaders and schools (Probert, 2015).
From a general perspective, Australian federal, state, and local governments stress on the use of technology in schools to prepare learners to help them learn, train, as well as live comfortably in the current digital world. In this line, there has been a significant investment that has seen Australian schools become rich in information and technology-related resources and infrastructure (Mckay& Devlin, 2016). Another milestone in Australia’s education system is the adoption of Bring Your Own Device policy in schools that has paved the way for students to carry their own digital resources and devices to school for learning purposes. The embrace of this policy is based on the argument that most parents, learners, and caregivers prefer same digital devices that can be used both at home and at school (Australian Education Technology, n.d.).
For assessment and evaluation, Australian system relies on the issuance of notes on point systems. Another method of evaluation is the case-by-case basis where percentages are awarded. In this method, for instance, a score of between 80 and 100 is considered a high distinction whereas a score between 0 and 49 is considered a failure (Nuffic, 2011).Another common way of assessment in Australia’s education system is the use of letter (A-E) where A is considered the highest possible score whereas E is the lowest possible score. Also, schools use the number system (1-7) where 7 is the highest possible score and 1 the lowest possible score (Nuffic, 2011).
Development Process of The Education System
It is argued that Australian education system has undergone significant changes and development over the years reconstituting itself in new ways that have been seen as a response to various factors including government initiatives, public scrutiny, and sector demands (Aspland, 2006). In the 1800s, no standard for education existed in Australia and education was solely available for the middle and upper classes who could afford to pay for tuition (Lee & Wilks, 2007). This gradually changed in the 1830s when Australia developed into an organized and orderly society. At this time, the government’s commitment to developing the education system became evident through the establishment of schools that gave children the opportunity to be taught not only the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic but also how to be moral and law-abiding citizens. Into the 1900s, the federal government availed money for education that served the purpose of paying teachers, equipping and erecting school houses, as well as purchasing necessary learning resources (Larkins, 2011).
There were government-run and church-run schools well into the 1900s. The government also laid down guidelines as to how the Australian curriculum was to be with the said curriculum being the same for all learners. Also, towards the 1900s, compulsory education was introduced despite facing numerous challenges (McCreadie, n.d.). Fees for high schools were later abolished, and there was the improvement of subjects and courses were extended to four years as well (Dowling, 2008). Other development in the process of Australian education system included the introduction of three levels of certificates; elementary school certificate, an intermediate certificate for successful completion of four years in high school, and the leaving certificate that was given after the completion of another two years (McCreadie, n.d.). There was a further increase in the time spent in elementary or primary schools to eight years and a decrease in the time spent in high school to four years. This has since remained the same although there have been recent improvements to the system such as the introduction of calculators and computers to enhance digital literacy (McCreadie, n.d.). Some of the key issues surrounding the evolution or reform of the Australian education system include technological change, issues of globalization, changing pedagogies, and new education organizational structures (Aspland, 2006).
Current Issues within Australian Education System
First, there is a challenge in equipping students for the 21st Century by increasing mathematical, scientific literacy, and reading levels (Masters & Geoff, 2016). Second, the government and stakeholders involved have fallen short in reducing existing disparities between Australian schools, especially from a socio-economic perspective. Third, there is a high population of underachieving students who fail to meet curriculum expectations and international education standards in extension (Masters & Geoff, 2016). Fourth, it remains difficult to raise the professional status of teaching, especially through pushing for an increase in the number of able school leavers joining the teaching profession (Masters & Geoff, 2016).
Australia being one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the Asia Pacific region, has an educational system that serves as a benchmark to several countries. The Australian education system is coveted given its proper system management and hierarchy, national curriculum, dominant pedagogies, as well as assessment and evaluation systems in place. The system has gone through numerous changes and reforms to be where it is today thanks to government initiatives and public scrutiny. However, the country is far from realizing its long-term objectives in the education sector given the numerous challenges faced by the education system today.
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Marks, G. N., McMillan, J., &Ainley, J. (2004). Policy issues for Australia’s education systems: Evidence from international and Australian research. Education policy analysis archives, 12, 17.
Masters, A. O., & Geoff, N. (2016). Five challenges in Australian school education.
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Noonan, P. (2016). A new system for financing Australian tertiary education.
Norton, A., &Cakitaki, B. (2016). Mapping Australian higher education 2016. Grattan Institute.
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Probert, B. (2015). The quality of Australia’s higher education system: how it might be defined, improved and assured. Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.
Santiago, P., Donaldson, G., Herman, J., &Shewbridge, C. (2011). OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Australia. OECD Publishing (NJ1).
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Structure of Australian Education System
Source:Nuffic (2011). Education System Australia: The Australian education system described and compared with the Dutch System. Retrieved September 7, 2017, from https://www.nuffic.nl/en/publications/find-a-publication/education-system-australia.pdf